A non-violent, campuswide strike has been declared for today, as voted on by 99.5 percent of the 1,729 person Occupy UC Davis General Assembly last Monday; it has been set to coincide with the statewide UC Regents meeting.
The strike — which according to the general assembly is protesting the Board of Regents’ inadequacy to properly represent the UC system’s students, faculty and workers — will occur with a number of students and faculty not attending nor teaching classes.
Teach-ins are scheduled to discuss the situation at hand. Other members of Occupy UC Davis will protest outside the UC Davis location of the Regents meeting, scheduled for 8:30 a.m. at the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC).
Before the pepper spraying of student protesters that took place Nov. 18, students were protesting the proposed 81 percent increase in tuition over the next four years. Now, a call for Chancellor Katehi’s resignation is also a part of the strike.
According to a press release by Occupy UC Davis and the General Assembly, the Regents’ use of public funds to support construction and private research projects demonstrate a conflict of interest that is detrimental to all those involved in the UC system. This, in turn, is said to contribute to the decreasing quality of public education and its privatization.
UC Davis English professor Nathan Brown said that displays of student/faculty unity, such as walkouts and strikes, are effective and are what has supported the university’s student movement since 2009. “From the Sept. 24, 2009 walkout to the three-day strike during the Nov. 2009 Regents Meeting, to March 4, 2010, to Occupy Cal on Nov. 9, to the Nov. 15 strike this year,” Brown said. “These actions have continued to mobilize students to resist the privatization of the university. Given that this movement has become the largest and most significant student movement since the 1960s, these actions have definitely been highly effective.”
There are over 100,000 signatures demanding Chancellor Katehi’s resignation, as well as calls for resignation from multiple departments, such as the English department and the majority of the physics department and the Board of the Davis Faculty Association.
Even though Chancellor Katehi said she did not warrant the use of pepper spray against students, UC Davis art history professor Blake Stimson believes that the issue of her resignation can be discussed in relation to two topics — the use of violence to enforce a no camping rule and the decision to use the force of the UC Davis Police Department to suppress open inquiry and free speech about the future of public education.
“The first may have been exclusively the doing of the police involved while the second is something that Chancellor Katehi has acknowledged was her own doing. For each of us, the question of whether she should be asked to resign may be different but it could be as simple as whether or not we subscribe to the basic claim of the Occupy movement generally — that there has been a massive redistribution of wealth, opportunity and political power from ‘the 99 percent’ to ‘the 1 percent’ in the last 30 years and that the only effective way for ‘the 99 percent’ to challenge and reverse this redistribution is not negotiating over what is feasible…” Stimson said.
Melissa Denton, a junior human development major, supports her classmates in their efforts.
“Katehi is merely the beginning of a much larger indecency,” she said.
Though in support of the strike’s motives and accomplishments thus far, Denton said it may be difficult to produce a noticeable change in the university’s functionality, without absolute participation.
“I honestly believe the strike could be very effective in showing the regents that we mean business. With the impending 81 percent tuition increase, it’d be beneficial for students to show the regents that, without us, there really is no university. Unfortunately, I think it’s going to be very hard to get many departments on campus to ‘shut down.’ For example, Unitrans and other on-campus services won’t simply stop functioning,” Denton said.
Both Stimson and Brown will be conducting teach-ins today and Stimson has cancelled his classes in support of the strike. Stimson will discuss public education, police force, nonviolent protest and the power of images at 10 a.m., west of the Art building. Brown will lead the first session of a three-part workshop in the Quad Village, titled “Three Theories of Power, Three Forms of Struggle: Marx, Fanon, Foucault” and plans to spend the night in the Quad with demonstrators as well.
Stimson believes students are benefiting in their education amid the protests, contrary to what others may assume, and compares it to Katehi’s own demonstration as a 19 year-old student at Athens Polytechnic in November 1973.
“As we have all seen, that response involved incredible fortitude by student protesters and their supporters when, even in the face of cavalier, gratuitous violence, not a single water bottle or other object was thrown at the police, and, when in the presence of the chancellor herself, not a single epithet was hurled,” said Stimson, “I cannot think of anything more educational than being present in the context of such events.”
MUNA SADEK can be reached at email@example.com.